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Carnatic music is a system of music commonly associated with the southern part of the Indian subcontinent, with its area roughly confined to four modern states of India: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu.
The main emphasis in Carnatic music is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in gayaki (singing) style.
Although there are stylistic differences, the basic elements of sruti (the relative musical pitch),swara (the musical sound of a single note), raga(the mode or melodic formulæ), and tala (the rhythmic cycles) form the foundation of improvisation and composition in both Carnatic and Hindustani music.
Typical instruments used in performances may include:
? the ghatam, kanjira,morsing, venu flute, veena, and chitraveena.
The main emphasis in Carnatic music is on vocal music; most compositions are written to be sung, and even when played on instruments, they are meant to be performed in a singing style (known as gayaki).
Like Hindustani music, Carnatic music rests on main elements:
? raga,
? the modes or melodic formulæ, and
? ta?a, the rhythmic cycles.
Sruti commonly refers to musical pitch.
It is the note from which all the others are derived.
Swara refers to a type of musical sound that is a single note, which defines a relative (higher or lower) position of a note, rather than a defined frequency.
Swaras also refer to the solfege of Carnatic music, which consist of seven notes, “sa-ri-ga-ma-pa-da-ni”
Raga system
A raga in Carnatic music prescribes a set of rules for building a melody
It specifies rules for movements up (aarohanam) and down (avarohanam), the scale of which notes should figure more and which notes should be used more sparingly, which notes may be sung with gamaka (ornamentation), which phrases should be used or avoided, and so on.
It is a series of obligatory musical events which must be observed, either absolutely or with a particular frequency.
In Carnatic music, the sampoorna ragas (those with all seven notes in their scales) are classified into a system called the melakarta, which groups them according to the kinds of notes that they have.
There are seventy-two melakarta ragas, thirty six of whose madhyama (subdominant) is sadharana (perfect fourth from the tonic), the remaining thirty-six of whose madhyama (subdominant) is prati (an augmented fourth from the tonic).
The ragas are grouped into sets of six, called chakras (“wheels”, though actually segments in the conventional representation) grouped according to the supertonic and mediant scale degrees. There is a system known as the katapayadi sankhya to determine the names ofmelakarta ragas.
Ragas may be divided into two classes:
janaka ragas (i.e. melakarta or parent ragas) and
janya ragas (descendant ragas of a particular janaka raga).
Janya ragas are themselves subclassified into various categories:

Tala system
Tala refers to a fixed time cycle or metre, set for a particular composition,
Talas have cycles of a defined number of beats and rarely change within a song.
Carnatic music singers usually keep the beat by moving their hands up and down in specified patterns, and using their fingers simultaneously to keep time.
Tala is formed with three basic parts (called angas) which are laghu, dhrtam, and anudhrtam, though complex talas may have other parts like plutam, guru, and kaakapaadam. There are seven basic tala groups which can be formed from the laghu, dhrtam, and anudhrtam:
? Dhruva tala
? Matya tala
? Rupaka tala
? Jhampa tala
? Triputa tala
? Ata tala
? Eka tala
The main traditional forms of improvisation in Carnatic music consist of the following:
? Alapana
? Niraval
? Swarakalpana
? Ragam
? Tanam
? Pallavi
? Tani Avartanam

Raga Alapana
It is the exposition of a raga or tone – a slow improvisation with no rhythm, where the raga acts as the basis of embellishment.
The performer will explore the ragam and touch on its various nuances, singing in the lower octaves first, then gradually moving up to higher octaves, while giving a hint of the song to be performed.
Niraval, usually performed by the more advanced performers, consists of singing one or two lines of text of a song repeatedly, but with a series of melodic improvised elaborations.
Although niraval consists of extempore melodic variations, generally, the original patterns of duration are maintained
The lines are also played at different levels of speed which can include double speed, triple speed, quadruple speed and even sextuple speed.
The improvised elaborations are made with a view of outlining the raga, the tempo, and the theme of the composition.
Kalpanaswaram, also known as swarakalpana, consists of improvising melodic and rhythmic passages using swaras (solfa syllables).
The swaras can also be sung at the same speed or double the speed of the melody that is being sung, though some artists sing triple-speed phrases too.
Ragam Tanam Pallavi
Ragam, Tanam, and Pallavi are the principal long form in concerts, and is a composite form of improvisation.
It consists of raga alapana, tanam, and a pallaviline.
Set to a slow-paced tala, the pallavi line is often composed by the performer. Through niraval, the performer manipulates the pallavi line in complex melodic and rhythmic ways.
The niraval is followed by kalpanaswarams.
Tani Avartanam
Tani Avartanam refers to the extended solo that is played by the percussionists in a concert, and is usually played after the main composition in a concert.
The most common and significant forms in Carnatic music are the varnam and the kriti (orkirtanam).
The features and rules of the raga (also known as the sanchaaraas of a raga) include how each note of the raga should be stressed, the scale of the raga, and so on.
All varnams consist of lyrics, as well as swara passages, including a pallavi, an anupallavi,muktayi swaras, a charanam, and chittaswaras.
Varnams are practised as vocal exercises in multiple speeds by performers of Carnatic music, to help develop voice culture, and maintain proper pitch and control of rhythm.
kritis are varied in structure and style, but generally consist of three units:
• Pallavi. This is the equivalent of a refrain in Western music, with 1 or 2 lines.
• Anupallavi. This is the second verse, also as 2 lines.
• Charana. The final (and longest) verse that wraps up the song. The Charanam usually borrows patterns from the Anupallavi. There can be multiple charanas.
A chittaswara consists only of notes, and has no words. Still others have a verse at the end of the charana, called the madhyamakala.
It is sung immediately after the charana, but at double speed.
The tambura is the traditional drone instrument used in concerts. However, tamburas are increasingly being replaced by sruti boxes, and now more commonly, the electronic tambura. The drone itself is an integral part of performances and furnishes stability – the equivalent ofharmony in Western music.
Instruments, such as the Saraswati veena and/or venu flute, can be occasionally found as a rhythmic accompaniment, but usually, a vocalist is supported by a violin player (who sits on his/her left).
The rhythm accompanist is usually a mridangam player (who sits on the other side, facing the violin player). However, other percussion instruments such as the ghatam, kanjira and morsing frequently also accompany the main percussion instrument and play in an almost contrapuntal fashion along with the beats.
Following the main composition, the concert continues with shorter and lighter songs.
Some of the types of songs performed towards the end of the concerts are tillanas and thukkadas – bits of popular kritis or compositions requested by the audience. Every concert that is the last of the day ends with a mangalam, a thankful prayer and conclusion to the musical event.